The Incredible Hulk

Year: 2008
Production Co: Marvel Enterprises
Director: Louis Leterrier
Producer: Avi Arad/Gale Anne Hurd
Writer: Zak Penn/Edward Norton
Cast: Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, Tim Roth, William Hurt, Ty Burrell, Tim Blake Nelson, Lou Ferringo, Stan Lee
The Marvel onslaught of 2008 continues, and just when you thought the comic kingdom could do no wrong, The Incredible Hulk comes along to show us how to get a superhero movie so wrong in the same way Iron Man got it so right.

Was the idea of a superhero movie directed by a kinetic, martial arts-style director starring an actor as smart and picky as Ed Norton just too big to live up to? Hardly - this mess doesn't even come near the high standard you hope for.

Ignoring the 2003 Ang Lee version apart from telling much the same story in flashback exposition during the credits, we meet Bruce Banner (Norton) living in the expansive slums near Rio de Janeiro, in hiding and cut off from the world apart from an anonymous scientists called Mr Blue, with whom Banner's apparently corresponding to find a cure for his 'condition'.

The bad guys find him and zero in, led by General Ross (William Hurt) and bad guy-in-waiting Emil Blonksy (Tim Roth), cueing the first outbreak of green rage in a soft drink bottling plant.

After getting away, Bruce finds his way back to former love Betty (Liv Tyler) to try and get hold of the data that will exact his cure if he can deliver it to Mr Blue (Tim Blake Nelson), but Blonsky has taken a dose of Banner's medicine, and fan favourite Abomination is slowly born, ready for the pair's final rumble in the Big Apple.

And so to the flaws, and where to begin? Large chunks of story seem to have been left out of the script or clumsily shorn in the editing room. Or possibly a decent script by Norton (writing under the alias Edward Harrison) and Zak Penn was simply not turned in, or butchered in the transition between the two.

Of course, a lacklustre script is par for the course in a Hollywood blockbuster, but where the casting of Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark in Iron Man (who makes an amusing final scene cameo) was 75 percent of that films success, the miscasting here has the equal and opposite effect.

Norton is so insipid and weedy he seems like a strip of wallpaper. William Hurt seems to have a stick up his butt and merely shouts a lot. Liv Tyler looks constantly on the verge of tears and shares absolutely no chemistry with Norton. But the biggest fumble is Roth as Blonksy/Abomination, so devoid of character, menace and depth it's like he's doing a read-through before the dress rehearsals start.

If you're desensitised enough to midyear popcorn movies not to expect any real story of characterisation, at least the set pieces, action and effects are usually enough to carry you to the implausible ending? No such luck. The CGI is shoddy. The plot holes (aside from the bad scripting and dialogue) are legion. And there are the outright inconsistencies with both the Hulk legend and the continuity of the film, outright cheats as plot devices.

Doesn't the Hulk change back to Banner when his temper settles? So why does he have hours spare to carry Betty off from the scene of a battle and sit romantically with her in the rain, like King Kong and Ann Darrow? Why does she yell at him to stop trying to kill the monster that's just laid waste to New York and (presumably) killed dozens or hundreds of people?

If it had just been another stupid superhero movie it wouldn't have felt like such a wasted opportunity. But with such a great pedigree, it's a disappointment in the I Am Legend league.

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